Adventures in Photography – Wales

Adventures in Photography – Wales

“The mountains are calling and I must go.”  so says the famous quote from John Muir.

Having spent 14 years of my adult life living in the Mendips I miss the hills and upland areas of the UK. As much as I love Suffolk and its coastline it is predominantly a flat landscape and a complete contrast to the rolling countryside of Somerset. So whenever I get the opportunity I like to head for somewhere more wild, more rugged, more mountainous. 

I have always found the mountains to be a really mindful place. They have the ability to captivate, inspire, and exhaust you before you even up amongst them. But whatever you feel about them they have the power to get under your skin and a pull that draws you back to their rugged slopes at every given opportunity. 

They are also a joy to photograph! 

After a challenging year of Covid with little travel it was lovely to have the opportunity get away for a few days now that travel restrictions have been lifted. So last Thursday I headed off to the mountains of Snowdonia (with my partner and fellow photographer) for three days of walking and photography with the idea in the back of my mind of running workshops in more varied locations.

My Welsh adventure began with a tranquil morning shoot around the shores of Llyn Gwynant – a lovely spot with some interesting detail on the shoreline and some great mountain views in the distance. The weather was perfect for reflections. The peace and stillness gave the whole area a really magical feel while the sound of a cuckoo calling across the valley made it feel like spring was finally upon us despite the chilly temperatures and the layer of frost on the ground. 

Once the light had disappeared we headed over to Llyn Idwal where we had planned a route up to the peaks of Glyder Fawr and Glyder Fach. The route around Llyn Idwal encompasses some of the best mountain scenery I have ever walked in and with clear skies the views were amazing even if the light wasn’t ideal for photography. 

The path up to Glyder Fawr is pretty challenging particularly if you spend most of your time in the flatlands and aren’t used to uphill walking! From the lake the path climbs through a cleft in the rocks known as the Devils kitchen – so called because the clouds tend to swirl around the rocks giving rise to the idea of smoke from the Devils cooking. Beyond this is a beautiful small lake and then an unforgiving and particularly challenging steep scree slope up to the top of Glyder Fawr. It is a hard scramble on a very loose surface but the views from the top are definitely worth it. Even on a dry sunny day the climb was hard and I wouldn’t want to do it in the rain, fog or wind as it would just be unpleasant and hard. 

Although we are now in April, there were still pockets of snow on the top of the mountain and some stunning views across the valley towards Snowdon. Glyder Fawr is the highest mountain in the Glyder range at 1,000.8 m (3,283.5 ft). It’s summit is an amazing landscape of jagged slabs and boulders and there are plenty of interesting compositions if you have been brave enough to carry your camera to the top. I left my camera bag and tripod behind and travelled with just my Nikon D850 and my 24-70mm lens.

From Glyder Fawr we skirted around the peak of Glyder Fach and headed down the miners path, between Glyder Fach and Tryfan and came out onto the Cambrian Way by Llyn Bochlwyd. The shot below shows Tryfan with one of the many mountain goats we encountered sitting on the grass below its rocky summit.

Exhausted after our day in the mountains we managed to drag ourselves out for a sunrise the following morning over Llynnau Mymbyr and then spent the rest of the day photographing the waterfalls and river Cwm Llan around the base of the Watkins path (the longest but most scenic route up to the top of Snowdon.) 

The river is a collection of small falls and shallow pools with some deeper sections where the water is the most beautiful aquamarine colour. I tried a number of different shots some with a 6 stop filter and some without. The best colours were obtained using just a polariser.

Towards the lower section of the river there were some beautiful moss covered oak trees overhanging the bank which gave me a lovely method with which to frame the flowing water.

For our final day we headed over to Dinorwic slate quarry. The weather was once again bright and sunny which was lovely but not the best for shooting such a moody location. Whilst the landscape here is vast and dramatic I found myself drawn to the smaller details that I found around the vast caverns and derelict buildings. This is definitely a location that is worth exploring. The parallel rows of cottages at the foot of the hill offer the best known images from this location but it is worth doing your own exploring as there is so much here to capture.

Our final evening was spent watching the sun go down across Llyn y Dywarchen. At first glance this fishing lake seemed a little uninspiring but it is worth exploring the lake shores and climbing some of the surrounding hills for amazing views over the lake and the surrounding valleys.

Three days is never really long enough and photography trips are always over much too soon but I do have some plans to return to Wales (and further afield) to run some weekend workshops in some of my favourite landscapes.

I am planning some UK wide workshops which will commence in 2022. If you are interested in joining me then please drop me a line and I will send you further information when it becomes available.